Cash & Carry: What do you do about money on the road?


Dealing with money on the road can be a real pain in the ass. 

You want to have enough on hand at all times, but not too much, because then you worry about it being stolen out of your bag or back pocket. If your journey is taking you along the trail well traveled, from city to city, and not far off of the hostel row, then the odds are good that you’ll have no problems. ATMs are plentiful and as long as you’ve got that ubiquitous four digit numeric code for your PIN, you’ll have constant access to your money.

But what happens when you “go local,” or the machines breakdown, or your card gets stolen, or the numbers skimmed at a bugged ATM? Then what?

It’s important to have contingency plans in place and access to your money in more than one way. Instead of keeping all of your eggs in one basket, consider dividing your money between several accounts, even several banks. We have ours split between a local, brick and mortar bank, a completely online bank, E-trade & Paypal in about seven different accounts. We have debit cards on four of those, so there’s never a crisis. When our numbers were skimmed in Guatemala and our account locked down while they figured it out, we carried on with the others. No drama.

Because we have a family, and our worst nightmare is being stuck somewhere with no money and no options, we have layers of contingency that might seem like overkill to some people:

  • Multiple accounts, with multiple debit cards
  • USD cash reserves
  • Traveler’s cheques

We’ve been laughed at by fellow travelers, but we’ve also been reduced to just the traveler’s cheques when banks have been haywire and ATMs have been jacked. USD is never a bad idea (in some parts of the world, it’s the best way to go!) Having too much money is hardly ever a problem!

Of course storing the spare change in a low key manner is the next issue.

  • Don’t keep it all in one place
  • Don’t carry tons of excess around in your money belt
  • Consider the incognito type travel safes, like “batteries” that screw apart and are actually a little capsule.
  • A “wet wipe” bottle is a good option. Pull out most of the wipes, jam your money (in a ziploc bag so it stays dry) down into the bottom, and leave the remainder of the wipes on top, still ready to be pulled out.
  • Sew the money into the lining of your jacket, or your backpack, or the tongue of your boots.

What do you do about money when you travel? Have any great tricks or “secrets” to share?


Posted by | Comments (3)  | June 25, 2013
Category: Money Management, On The Road, Vagabonding Life

3 Responses to “Cash & Carry: What do you do about money on the road?”

  1. Davide about money while traveling Says:

    I usually have with me 2 or even 3 debit cards, euros instead of dollars, stored in different places, a waist-bag and a hidden pouch under my clothes (only for big movements). Still didn’t try creative method like the Wet wipe one, but I would be scared of me or somebody else throwing it away by mistake!

  2. Roger Says:

    I just got back from the island of Trinidad & Tobago and I was able to use ATM’s ok at a few banks and at the airport. But, they often run out of money during weekends.

  3. Jennifer Miller Says:

    David… us too… lots of options…
    Roger… yeah, we’ve encountered that in lots of places too, a run on money at the weekends!